The Buckaroos, paced by all-tournament team member Dallin Duncan, raced to victory in their first two games to earn a place in the top four for the first time since 1996, when the Buckaroos placed third in the 2A tournament.
The Raiders, after a first round upset to unknown Liahona, won three spellbinding games in a row to capture the consolation championship.
The Buckaroos started out strong, playing an always tough Duchesne, and winning 51-46. Duchesne is coached by Stan Young, who coached against me when I was in high school.
The Bucks used a strong performance at the foul line, making 22 of 29, to outlast the always competitive Eagles.
Devin Wright made 6 of 6 to lead the FT onslaught. Duncan led the Bucks with 18 points as the Bucks led the entire game.
Round two saw the Bucks face the Panguitch Bobcats, a team they hadn’t beaten in years, promising to be a tight game. The teams didn’t disappoint as the Bucks weathered two last second shots by the Bobcats that refused to fall to send the game into overtime, where the Bucks again went to the foul line to put the game away, 54-49.
Steven Redd, Wright and Duncan all scored 13 points, with Cory Young adding 10.
The Bucks then got their comeuppance against this year’s team of destiny, the Bryce Valley Mustangs. Up by six at 40-34 with about four minutes to go, the Bucks kind of lost their shoes in the final minutes as the Mustangs got hot and hit five threes in a row, to turn that six point deficit into a five point win, 57-52.
Perhaps an omen for the Buckaroos occurred when Buckaroo cheerleader Mariah Harris, while cheering a Duncan 3-point play, kicked her shoe off into the court halting play for a lighthearted moment.
Young kept the Bucks alive with three treys and a 3-point play and Duncan added 16 points facing a defense, which for the third night in a row, was designed to stop him. It was BVs night and tournament.
Finally, the Bucks squared off against long time football rival, Rich, in the difficult game for third place. They played a rousing game, a tough thing to do after a heartbreaking semifinal loss. But the Bucks were game and a great game they played, leading the Rebels by nine with three minutes to go, before it all came tumbling apart.
The Rebels, using the long ball, staged a furious rally to forge a lead which they kept at the free throw line to beat the Bucks, 64-61.
Duncan again led the offensive charge with 17 points, with Wright adding 16, Young 10, and seniors Steven Redd and Tyler Ketron adding nine and seven points in their last Buckaroo games.
Unable to attend the tournament, I was nevertheless able to watch nearly every game of the 1A tournament on Ustream TV. I felt like I was there.
No lead is safe in the 1A tournament and no game is a wipeout. Most games came down to the last couple of minutes before they are decided; a feast for fans. In fact, only two games ended up being routs, with Valley’s besting Wasatch Academy by 18 and Panguitch’s popular 72-50 whipping of Liahona, whose brash, cocky style of play irritated not a few during their first ever trip to a state basketball tournament.
You gotta have a 3-point shooter, no, a 3-point maker, as Jerry Sloan would say. Threes were flying and dropping out of nowhere all week.
In the Buckaroo’s semifinal loss to Bryce Valley, a trey by BV star Kace Roundy, (from way beyond the three point line out in Monty Jones land), spurred the Mustangs to the victory. Roundy then added three more in a 15-point fourth quarter.
In the Rich game, a long trey by Rebel star Caden Anderson started the Rebels on their comeback trail. It’s not so much how many threes one scored, it seemed to be when the treys came that was the most exertion-provoking.
Whitehorse won the consolation championship, not only on their ability to make three pointers, but having the threat of making a three pointer as well, which opened up the middle for penetration and numerous easy layups.
And their second round comeback of epic proportions against Milford was fueled by layups and three pointers (see below).
One gratifying aspect of the state 1A tournament is the comradery between rival region teams. Some of the loudest supporters of the Whitehorse Raiders were the members of the Monticello Buckaroos and the Green River Pirates boy’s teams.
The Raiders played the last game of the night on day one of the tournament and both the Bucks and Pirates, realizing that the Raiders were boasting few fans at the game and no cheerleaders, decided to cheer for the Raiders.
Loudly they rooted for the confident, but fan-less Raiders; though the Raiders couldn’t quite pull out a first round win over Liahona. The support, however, helped spur the Raiders to a spectacular come from behind win over Milford in the second round where a loss would have sent the eventual consolation champs home.
After star Shawn Dickson and two other starters fouled out of the game late in the fourth quarter and with the Raiders down 10, things looked bleak for the Raiders. But they staged the rally of the tournament, a tournament filled with plenty of comebacks, to not only tie the game but pull away and win by 11.
Whitehorse coach Matt Baldwin appreciated the support so much that his players immediately went out and bought both green and orange t-shirts, which his players wore in support of the Buckaroos and Pirates.
The teams returned the favor throughout the tournament by cheering for each other in all their games.
Dickson, who was named player of the game after the Raiders consolation championship game victory over the Duchesne Eagles, was even interviewed by the group broadcasting the games on the internet while wearing his Buckaroo burnt orange t-shirt. Cool.
You gotta have a good luck charm. After the Buckaroo’s first victory over the Raiders way back on February 2 in Montezuma Creek, the team attributed the victory to rabid Buckaroo fan Cheryl Soderstrom, the vice-principal at Monticello High School.
Thereafter, whenever the Buckaroo starting five was introduced before games, the five would each detour over to the Buckaroo fans to high-five Ms. Soderstrom. At the state tournament, they turned up the pressure on Ms. Soderstrom as not only the starting five, but the whole team, after the introductions, would rush Ms. Soderstrom for the lucky high five. In the spirit of the week, Ms. Soderstrom offered her good luck charmness to the Raiders, donning the Black and Yellow for all the Raider games.
The Raiders also have a connection to the Rich Rebels and their own good luck charm. The Rich starters would chest bump long time manager Justice Limb after they were introduced.
Justice, you might remember, was the long time manager for the Rebel football team, who won the 1A state championship last fall.
Though he couldn’t play, Limb has long been the players and coaches’ inspiration. During a football game at Whitehorse High School in October, with the Rebels up 35-0 at halftime, Rebel quarterback Bradley Holmes gave his uniform to Limb, who played the entire second half, his first and only opportunity to play football.
After the game, his team carried him off the field on their shoulders. For a full account of the heartwarming story, go the Desnews.com and type in the search “Rich Rebel manager.”
Not mentioned in the account is the Whitehorse team, who realized what was happening and contributed their efforts by allowing Limb to play without injury. I understand they were involved in the shoulder carrying, too.
I suppose the Buckaroos and the Broncos can take some solace in the fact that the teams that beat them in their tournaments were the eventual state champs. South Summit won their first state title since 1976 after besting the Broncos in the playout game. The Bryce Valley Mustangs, sporting the same green school color as South Summit, won their first state title of anykind ever with their 1A title, after triumphing in a riveting semifinal game over the Buckaroos and besting their region rivals, Piute in the final.